The West Lincoln Lady Chiefs Girlsâ€™ softball team improved on back-to-back 6-6 seasons this year. How much did they improve? The Chiefs won the East Division of the Tri-County Conference and fell to Chase by a score of 2-1 in the Tri-County Conference Championship Game.
The Chiefs sputtered starting their season off 1-2, with losses to both East Lincoln and Lincolnton, then they reeled off an impressive nine-game winning streak before their championship game loss to finish 10-3.
Two qualities stand out in head coachâ€™s Mia Cookeâ€™s mind when reflecting on what made them successful.
â€œThey worked hard as a team and theyâ€™ve backed each other regardless of playing time,â€ she said.
Perhaps the biggest achievement for the Chiefs was beating East Rutherford for the first time in five years.
Beth Qualls, Whitney Ellis and Ashley Workman were captains on a team that featured 13 eighth-graders. Cooke, who is in her third year coaching West Lincoln, was pleased with their leadership.
â€œThey were great leaders who served as good role models to the younger players,â€ she said.
Other team members were:
Amber Willard, Jessica Richards, Lacy Hughes, Ashley Rhyne, Kayda Caldwell, Ashley Barber, Laura Barrett, Brittany Sigmon, Jennifer Bryson, Shelby Gilmore, Logan Ingle, Teneil Ingle, Christina Rikard, Beth Pittman, Tearsha Hester.
Cooke did wish thank her assistant coach Jenny Dellinger, who mostly served as the first base coach.
â€œShe helped teach the skills of the game and she taught that softball could be both fun and educational,â€ she said.
Dellinger wasnâ€™t the only person that Cooke had gratitude toward.
â€œI would like to thank the parents for being so supportive and encouraging. I would also like to thank Nathan Workman and Tim Ellis who helped me get the ball field ready,â€ she said.
The coach was especially happy with their season, although she wished they couldâ€™ve beat Chase.
â€œThis season was awesome because the last two years we didnâ€™t do nearly as well. It was a good way to send the eighth graders onto high school.â€
An underrated aspect of any team is how hard they practice. Cooke believes that was the difference-maker with this team.
â€œThey took practice just as serious as the games and I think thatâ€™s what made them successful,â€
Not only did the Chiefs finish second, but they also showed character and excellent sportsmanship.
â€œIâ€™m really proud of the girlsâ€™ sportsmanship toward each other, as well the other teams. They were never rude,â€ Cooke said.
Not only was the season fun, but Cooke felt her players showed a lot of individual and team growth from last yearâ€™s 6-6 record.
â€œAs seventh graders a lot them didnâ€™t get a lot of playing time, but they improved their skills and showed more leadership as eighth graders.â€by John Mark Brooks